Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Guatemalan Presbytery Meeting

We’ve been blessed with invitations to travel to different parts of the country to experience and participate in the work God has been doing in Guatemala through the ministry of the Presbyterian Church. We recently wrote of my visit to the Pacific coast. Shortly after returning from that journey, I received an invitation to be a part of a meeting of the indigenous Polochic Presbytery in the small town of La Tinta, a short, bumpy, and crowded three and a half hour micro bus trip from Cobán. It would be a three-day meeting with meals and lodging provided at the presbytery center.

This presbytery meets as a full body (pastors and elders from each congregation) twice a year. A smaller executive committee, elected by the presbytery, meets more often and sees to the ongoing needs of the presbytery. So, when everyone gets together in April and November, it can be quite a gathering. I couldn’t help comparing what I experienced over these few days to gatherings and assemblies I’ve experienced in our own Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination. There were several similarities I noticed, each of course with its touch of cultural uniqueness. Maybe some of you veterans of your presbytery’s proceedings will see some similarities.
Calling the meeting to order

The Assembly Hall
The president (moderator) called the meeting to order once most the delegates were in the hall and appeared ready to begin. I was asked to sit at the front table with the officers so I could give a greeting and share a little about us and our work. From the national assembly, the theological education program, and our home presbytery’s partnership (Inland Northwest), I noticed many familiar faces in the crowd of 70+ delegates at the meeting. There was a scripture reading and devotional given, followed by prayers (in the Q’eqchí style of a leader who starts and closes and everyone prays simultaneously. The hall was filled with the prayers of the people. Then we got down to business.
Every report checked, confirmed, and stamped
The secretary (stated clerk) read reports, and read reports, and read reports. There were reports of the minutes of each meeting of the executive committee, correspondences received, and then there were those statistical reports for every congregation in the presbytery. Each one was read aloud, confirmed, and then approved. I asked one of the leaders why they don’t just make copies for everyone to read beforehand and then approve them together. He told me that not all pastors and elders of the presbytery have adequate reading skills to interpret the reports. So they read them aloud so everyone can participate. It adds a lot of time to the meeting, but in a largely oral culture, this is not seen as unusual.

Lunch is almost ready!
Hospitality was offered by people from the local Presbyterian congregation in La Tinta. Plenty of hot soup, and even hotter tortillas were served up by gracious volunteers. Fellowship and conversation around the grounds was warm, lively, and reminiscent of fellowship moments experienced in gatherings around our own PC(USA) denomination, except for the fact that the most everyone was speaking Q'eqchí. Back in the assembly, the coordinator for youth ministries gave a lively report, and then took advantage of the opportunity to do a quick fund raiser, raffling off a Q'eqchí Bible and a bottle of soda pop.
Youth Raffle Fund Raiser
A commission was established to meet with members of a community interested in forming a Presbyterian congregation. Prayers for a struggling congregation were offered, and then a special offering for them was taken. Elections were held; new pastors were ordained and installed in their congregations. And of course we had lots and lots of coffee. It’s hard to imagine a group of Presbyterians getting together without there being coffee to share together. In the cold wet Guatemala November weather, it was quite welcome. Soon it was time for me to say my farewells and head for the next micro bus leaving for Cobán. I left thankful for the experience, and blessed by the brothers and sisters of the Polochic Presbytery. What a great way to spend Thanksgiving!
Coffee, Coffee, Coffee

Blessings to you in this season of Advent!
Richard and Debbie Welch
PC(USA) Mission Co-Workers, Guatemala
Double your financial support for Richard and Debbie. Gifts made to our ministry before December 31, 2014 will be matched by an anonymous donor. Don’t miss this opportunity!

No comments:

Post a Comment